My husband teaches math at a community college. When he came home from a day at grad school I sometimes glanced at his notebook. The formulas and proofs looked more like Egyptian hieroglyphics than logic. While most math formulas hold little meaning for me, I’ve spent a long time looking for parenting formulas.
When I meet a mom whose kids turned out to be amazing followers of God, I ask what did you do? I pick her brain looking for the parenting formula to raise kids who love God. If someone shares a story about an adult kid making too many bad decisions, if there is a tactful way, I ask about the parents’ involvement, their guidance and what they did or didn’t do. If I can’t the perfect formula, I might be able to find what not to do. And crazily, most of the time I am not consciously aware of what I am seeking.
And sometimes when I have a decision to make about my kids I get really stressed. What if I make the wrong decision? When should I vaccinate? Can we start solids now? My daughter is too shy to play with other kids, how do I fix her? My daughter doesn’t like to play with dolls, what does that mean? How much soccer is too much? And so I do what I always do. I research. I quiz other moms. Frequently, I pray less than I research and quiz because is more addicting than the waiting of prayer.
There is wisdom in seeking the advice and experience of other Godly women (hence the Mentor mom series). Scripture encourages it. But like so many things, the world has twisted this principle. We believe that if we mimic successful formulas (add a coffee shop to your church, follow certain beauty steps) success can be duplicated. And since the following the formula sometimes works, we try it in relationships which are not formula based things. While God cares about how we parent, our parenting finesses does not determine the adult life of our kids. There are God-fearing, loving adults who had mean, selfish parents and there are evil, selfish adults who had loving, God-fearing parents.
Humans are too unique and complicated to fit formulas (more evidence that there is a creator). And if I think following certain steps will guarantee that my kids will turn out well, then I’ve lost sight of the goal. The goal is not to raise kids who don’t mess up or who don’t experience difficult things. The goal is to follow God as we parent. Daily we must give the hearts and minds and bodies of our kids to God–trusting him, no matter what. They are His anyway. There is no formula to avoid trials, illness, or straying from God. For it is in those hard places that we learn how profoundly we need God.
One day, as I quizzed a mom I admired, she looked at me and told me to stop worrying so much.
“Laura, Do your kids know you love Jesus?”
“Do your kids know you love them?”
“That’s all you need to do.”